When John Kastner called a contractor for a quote on the cost of four truckloads of topsoil for the sitework of a 220-seat outdoor performance venue at the Stratford Perth Museum, he expected a price of $4,000 to $5,000.
Much to his surprise, however, Stratford-based Hyde Construction was willing to supply and transport the soil for free.
Kastner, the museum’s general manager, says the surprises didn’t stop there. Dordan Mechanical of New Hamburg supplied and installed the required high-pressure water service for the venue at no cost to the museum.
“I expected a big expense,” Kastner says.
“It’s another example of how the project was improved and we were braced for more costs and the opposite happened.”
Kastner points out that general contractor Player Carpentry and Masonry and most of the subtrades, all from the Stratford area, were quick to come to the museum’s aid.
“The companies I have dealt with here have been very philanthropic.”
In return for “a gift in kind” from the GC towards construction, the venue will be called Player’s BackStage.
Slated for completion this summer, depending on the pandemic, the performance venue includes a raised 16-by-22-foot covered stage clad in reclaimed barnboard on a concrete foundation. There will also be concession and box office buildings.
Audience seating, which will be fold-up chairs covered by a shade sail, on the property will require sitework for proper irrigation and landscaping.
The venue will be wired for theatre-quality lighting and audio and be supplied with lighted and paved parking for 125 vehicles and accessible washrooms.
Along with donations of materials and services by contractors, the museum has received monies from the community through a fundraiser that has helped to cover most of the costs for the new facility. The museum also received a $20,000 federal grant from the Stratford Tourism Alteration and Transformation Project.
“We took advantage of the community’s support and some government money to pull this off.
“I think this will be transformational for us,” Kastner says, pointing out the drive to develop the performance venue is in keeping with the museum’s “bold approach” to how it has operated over the past five or more years.
In that time, it has presented a Justin Bieber exhibit, displayed Shakespeare’s First Folio and rented its grounds for weddings.
Kastner says the performance venue will be open to third-party use, including the Stratford Festival.
“We are really optimistic that it is going to be not only important for us but for the community as well.”
He says the idea for the outdoor stage and entertainment venue came about after the museum sold out five live shows from its side porch over the summer. Professional entertainers and actors who in normal times work at the Stratford Theatre performed at the museum to an audience of 100 seated on lawn chairs.
It was “a pretty amateurish spot but it gave us the idea for a more permanent space.”
The list of contractors providing cash, in-kind gifts or pending offers of material donations includes Dordan Mechanical, Hyde Construction, Kelly Electric, MTE Engineering, Nicholson Concrete, Sommers Generators and A Touch of Dutch Landscaping.
Kastner says employees at the Stratford Festival also offered help on the design.
“Simon Marsden was probably the most influential on what the site would look like.”